Colluding with others: You can go your own way

Perhaps your area is a dry spot when it comes to radical organizing. Or maybe there are plenty of leftist groups in your area, but their politics don’t quite align with your own. If you find that regularly meeting up with like-minded individuals is not much of a possibility, don’t feel at a loss––you should see this as an opportunity to start up your own group.

A lot of the tactics for finding like-minded people can also be used for drawing them together, but you’ll be using the platforms in slightly different ways. Here are some tips for starting your own organization:

  1. Draw up a plan.

    Before you jump in and start trying to recruit people for your group, it would be helpful to articulate the ideas you have in mind. Create a pamphlet articulating the transformations that you fight for, assemble a list of readings you would like to discuss over the next few weeks with a group, or construct a mission statement for your organization. Whatever you’d like to do, just put it down on paper or on the web, and make it compelling. You can then rely on this information when trying to get people interested.

  2. Again, start at school.

    If you find that there aren’t any radical clubs at your school, start one. Most schools require a minimum amount of prospective members in order for a group to become officially recognized (AKA chartered), so gather up some friends and classmates and begin fulfilling your school’s requirements.

    Some schools won’t be friendly if you’re a leftist group, and they may insidiously undermine your efforts. The bureaucracy in charge of approving my campus-based organization’s application for chartership has repeatedly rejected it for insignificant reasons that are normally overlooked for other student clubs.

    In some cases, you could also be the target of overt action. In 2013 the school administration at CUNY City College, one of our sister schools, shut down without notice a student center that has historically been used for radical organizing. All of the students’ and groups’ belongings were seized, and a number of students and activists who later moved to take back the center were suspended from school or arrested.

    CUNY students protesting the school admin's practices and policies. Photo credit David McGlynn;

    Organizing can be dangerous, so be mindful of this before trying to start up a group at school. If you find that your campus administration is hostile to your ideas, you can still meet up with your associates on or off campus without becoming a chartered organization. You can also use this to your advantage by publicizing the unjust treatment you’ve faced in an effort to recruit people to your side and organize resistance.

  1. Attend workers’ strikes and activities.

    If class struggle is a central aspect of your politics, there’s no better way of starting up a group than attending workers’ strikes and rallies. You can move with the workers to start organizing other rallies and protests, supporting other strikes throughout your area, doing readings, or even translating pamphlets to other languages so that they can be easily disseminated amongst immigrant workers. Organizing workers’ strikes is also a possibility, but this is an entirely different animal that cannot be adequately addressed within the purview of this book.

  2. Use social media and existing groups.

    Again, social media can be used to your advantage here. Post to radical Facebook discussion groups or your area’s reddit page, or start a Meetup group for the organization or activity you’d like to create. Ask your friends and colleagues if they’d be interested in attending, or ask them if they know of anyone who would be. Publicize your idea through Twitter by tagging users that you think would be interested.

    You can also attend the meetings of groups with whom you don’t completely see eye-to-eye to see if anyone else shares your politics and would like to begin a split-off group. Be discreet: you don’t want to start a fight (unless that’s your thing).

Once you have a small group set up, you can start broadening your membership and participating in direct action, which we’ll tackle next.

Amanda Fox-Rouch (Hunter College)

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